Student parents find that they are particularly vulnerable to changes in campus resources, such as cuts to programs or services such as EOP or tutoring, long wait-lists at childcare programs, or increases to tuition or student fees.
The first national project to survey the needs and experiences of students who are also parents is being launched by Sociology Professor Sheila Katz and Holly Phillips, a Senior Human Development major and McNair Scholar.
The Student Parent Survey will explore the challenges of being a student and a parent, the effectiveness of campus resources, and ways that SSU or other universities can better serve student parents.
The SSU data will be part of a national dataset being compiled by the research team at universities across the country.
Students who are a parent can take the survey at: http://questionpro.com/t/AKhEMZQvvD
SSU is the first university in the country launching the survey, a project of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR)'s Student Parent Success Initiative.
The sociology professor says "this survey is the first national project that will allow us to understand and compare the experiences of this under researched group of students."
IWPR, located in Washington D.C., designed the survey in collaboration with an advisory board of researchers from across the country, which Katz has served on since 2011. The development of the survey was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, as a part of their higher education initiative through a grant to IWPR.
The SSU portion of the project is funded by Phillips' SSU Undergraduate Research Grant and Katz's research funding. Students who complete the survey can enter to win one of ten $20 gift cards in appreciation for their participation.
Celebrating the project, March 3
Katz and Phillips will host a "launch party" for the project on March 3 from 3-5 p.m. at Lobos Pizza Pub in the Student Center for student parents to meet and network with other student parents, take the survey online, share a pizza, and celebrate the project.
Katz and Phillips have been working on the project together since September 2012; Phillips is a student parent herself, and her work on the project is her McNair Scholar research. "I'm really excited to be part of this project because coming back to school for me has been important for my family, and I want to create that opportunity for other families," Phillips says.
Katz says, "Holly and I are delighted to have SSU be the first campus launching the survey. Working with IWPR on this project is so inspiring. Their leadership researching issues associated with women's economic equality and educational access goes back over two decades, and this project is an excellent next step in that work."
Dr. Barbara Gault, IWPR's Vice President and Executive Director, says, "We are thrilled that our colleagues at Sonoma State will take the lead on the student parent survey, that will become a much larger effort to give voice to the experiences and challenges faced by college students with children, as they pursue the dream of a college education."
Phillips knows that her education also helps her children achieve educationally. "Watching me go back to school, being diligent about my studies, balancing school and family responsibilities has made a difference in my children's education," she says.
"For example, my daughter is a community college student and student athlete, and when she thinks about her own ability to go to school, work part-time, and plan for her future, she tells me that she sometimes feels overwhelmed. But, then she thinks about her mother being in college and that helps her remember the value of her education."
Phillips is applying to Master's Degree programs in Social Work because she is interested in working with low-income families and children.
Collaborating with researchers and advocates across the country to understand the experiences of students who are parents is timely and relevant to issues facing the SSU community and are being considered at universities across the country, says Katz.
"Previous research on the issue, such as my own qualitative research with student parents, find that they are particularly vulnerable to changes in resources on campuses, such as cuts to campus programs or services such as EOP or tutoring, long wait-lists at on-campus childcare programs, or increases to tuition or student fees."
Phillips and Katz will present this research at the Pacific Sociological Association annual meetings in Portland, OR in late March and Phillips will present it at the McNair Scholar Symposium at SSU on April 8.
ABOVE: The first national project to survey the needs and experiences of students who are also parents is being launched by Sociology Professor Sheila Katz (left) and Holly Phillips (right), a Senior Human Development major and McNair Scholar.